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How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? (Psalm 137)


I’m not sure where we are, other than in limbo. We have watched with incredulity at how quickly the wheels came off after the arrival of COVID-19. How the center could not hold. How time simply unhinged, and an entire season of spring vanished. The national pastime appears to have passed. The conditions have exposed the already stressed and frayed seams of our country’s flawed social fabric and toxic systemic racism. We are on edge. Apprehensive. Exhausted. Numb.


Lost in a strange landscape


The signs aren’t clear except to indicate that we’re not out of the labyrinthine woods yet. About COVID-19, a politician says he doesn’t see the growing resurgence of cases as a second wave. To which an epidemiologist agrees for a different reason: saying it’s still the first wave. I picture a beast with a deadly tail. More to come. Then there’s the hurricane season. And the windy political climate.

It is hard not to feel somehow lost in all of this. Or to feel bereft of something that is lost. As if we are in an unsettling dream with a strange landscape.

And how may we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land? We can’t. Because we must not sing in church, whenever it is that we resume gathering together.


Choirs are made of hopeful people


But choir members are, by nature, a resilient and resourceful people. They watch the horizon and hope. Maybe their hope is the result of being immersed in an inherently creative activity to begin with. Or the cumulative effect of all that extra oxygen they’ve been breathing for years, or perhaps of the prayers that are the texts they tend to sing. Perhaps Augustine was right: He who sings DOES pray twice.

I was inspired to read the June 15, 2020 COVID-19 Response Report from the ACDA. Not for the answers it gave. Nobody has answers. But for its organized and thoughtful approach to: okay, where to go from here and how to begin? And I’m looking forward to “attending” (via video) the Montreat Conference on Music & Worship next week. We are not lost.


Nothing is lost


I believe we will get through this time. And I believe that when that day comes, we will have learned new skills, gained a renewed appreciation for simple gifts, and have created new and imaginative means of expression.

I trust that on the other side of this (and all) time, I will recognize God’s presence and guidance through it, I will have a realization of having grown, and that I will find and be found in God.

I came across this recently while reading through writings from the 1941 journal of Thomas Merton:

Not one word is lost,
not one action is lost,
not one prayer is lost,
not one mis-sung note
in choir is lost. Nothing is lost.

— Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence

In this pilgrimage, we may be wanting direction. Waiting for it. But we are found by God.